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  • Students Reflect on the Grace Hopper Celebration 2017

    In early October, eight students and two faculty members traveled to Orlando, Florida for the Anita Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. The event was for women in the varying computing fields to connect, collaborate, and create.

    The impact that the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing had on the students who were lucky enough to attend has not worn off. For an event so massive, it is hard not to think about the effects it has had on a student and her/his daily life as a computer science or software engineering student. Here is what our attending students had to say…

    The department had two Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) Scholars, Megan Rapach, a senior software engineering student, and Kalyna Reda, a junior software engineering student. Students who applied for this coveted scholarship, if selected, were awarded a fully sponsored trip to the conference by Anita and it’s associated sponsors.

    The two Monmouth University GHC scholars were grateful to have been given the chance to attend the conference as scholars. Rapach said, “I’m grateful that I was given this opportunity and it was an honor to attend this year’s conference as a GHC Scholar; I attended an event held specifically for scholars, in which I met other scholars from around the world and learned how to construct and deliver an elevator pitch.”

    While the scholars were given some extra unique opportunities, they still attended the conference talks and the other varying opportunities such as the career fair and the interview hall,  just the same as the rest of the 18,000 women and men that attended the conference.

    “I feel very lucky to attend a university where professors, advisors, and the rest of the professional staff, strive to help their students succeed.”

    Brianna Licciardello
    Junior Computer Science Student

    For Reda, the talk that stood out most for her was that of Debbie Sterling, the CEO of Goldieblox. Reda stated, “After hearing an idea about engineering tools for girls, she took this to build the amazing company that Goldieblox is today. She persevered through the hard times, and continued despite the many no’s that she received. Sterling wanted to destroy the pink aisle, meaning she wanted to come up with thought provoking toys for little girls, rather than the pink dolls, makeup, and costumes that were in stock at stores. She created GoldieBlox, an engineering toy for girls, and won a Super Bowl commercial to show her product!”

    Sterling was also a point of interest for Brianna Licciardello, a junior computer science student. Licciardello was one of six students that were sponsored by Monmouth University School of Science Student Travel Fund and Department of Computer Science & Software Engineering. Licciardello stated of Sterling’s talk: “Her story specifically interested me because it was riddled with so much failure, yet she always prevailed. I was also excited to hear from a speaker who used her degree in an untraditional way, as this is something I can see myself doing one day.”

    Many of the students found extreme motivation and inspiration from the various speakers; in a field that is so reliant on ultimate perfection, there truly is a vast amount of failure and fixing that is are imperative steps. Students are often discouraged by failures and by confusion, but this conference and these female speakers showed the attendees that this is merely a part of the process of understanding who you are and what your mission is.

    This idea was reflected by sophomore computer science student, Stephanie Okereke, who was comforted by the speakers’ expressions of failure: “…Sometimes I feel as though because I was not exposed to programming in my high school years that I am incapable of doing the work, when in reality that is the opposite. As the saying goes, we all have to learn to crawl before we can walk.”

    For MIS graduate student, Lauren Niesz, this was also an integral part for her to find her way in the field: “For me, personally, this conference gave me direction in my life. I am a graduate student of MIS, but I was an English undergraduate student, so I was pretty lost in the field before this conference. If I didn’t attend this conference, I would have no focus and my motivation in the field would be lacking as well.”

    Along the same sentiment, a junior software engineering student, Jessica Zemartis, admitted, “Oftentimes, I find myself struggling with Imposter Syndrome- low confidence and exceedingly high personal standards. The Grace Hopper Celebration was the dose of inspiration, confidence and exposure I needed to help move past some of those mental barriers.”

    “Seeing so many diverse, interesting, and successful women from a plethora of companies, positions and backgrounds helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin and how my own journey has unfolded. It helped me realize that while there still exist many cultural and social barriers that need to be overcome, the biggest barrier to my success would be myself if I didn’t truly embrace my skills, experiences and passions,” Zemartis continued.

    KerryAnn DeMeester, a senior software engineering student, agreed with what others said, “I needed this convention to prove to myself that I am capable of being a successful woman in technology.”

    Junior computer science and software engineering student, William Jones, was one of very few males to attend the conference. His take on the conference was definitely different from the others. He stated, “I would have never guessed in the field that I am studying that there is such a divide and that even within this divide, there is another divide that deals with race and ethnicity.”

    He continued, “I have been given a chance to hopefully change this so that in the company and places that I wind up working at can stop this unjustness from happening immediately and maybe from ever happening again in the future.”

    These students were able to find their way in the field and truly learn how to navigate through all of the opportunities that the field has to offer young, female tech-oriented students. They were all extremely grateful for the opportunity and many had some words of thanks to extend to the Department of Computer Science & Software Engineering & the Anita Institute (for scholars)…

    Megan Rapach: “I’m grateful that I was given this opportunity and it was an honor to attend this year’s conference as a GHC Scholar.”

    Brianna Licciardello: “I feel very lucky to attend a university where professors, advisors, and the rest of the professional staff, strive to help their students succeed. If it was not for this hands-on professional development approach, I might not have had the opportunity to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing this October.”

    Lauren Niesz: “I am so thankful to the Department of Computer Science & Software Engineering, the School of Science, and just Monmouth University in general for affording me this transformative experience.”

    Jessica Zemartis: “I hope that Monmouth University will continue to send students to the Grace Hopper Celebration for many years to come. I found the experience deeply moving and will continue to attend future Celebrations, while encouraging other women to do the same.”

    KerryAnn DeMeester: “I am beyond grateful to Monmouth University for sponsoring me to attend the Grace Hopper Convention. As an individual who struggles with maintaining self-esteem and confidence,”

    Reda sums it up when she stated, “I am excited to be a part of this change.” All of our students who attended this conference are bursting with the thirst for change and beaming with a light of opportunity. They wanted to share their experience at this event in order to show others who did not have the opportunity to attend that anything really is possible—even for a woman, and even in the field of computing, engineering, and technology.



  • Grace Hopper Celebration 2017

    From October 4-6, eight students and two faculty members traveled down to Orlando, Florida for the Anita Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. This event is a haven for all women in the computing fields to get together and network and simply enjoy the atmosphere of women in technology who share the same interests and similar skills. There were approximately 18,000 women and men who attended the event. Out of this we estimate only 5% of the attendees were male.

    The 3-day long event consisted of many different parts. There were the various workshops, inspiring keynotes and influential talks by women who paved the way and opened doors for all future women in tech, a career fair aspect where 300+ companies got together to recruit the thousands of women who attended, and an interview hall for prospective interns and employees to be interviewed on site.

    Attendees were able to hear about the triumphs and failures of many tech moguls in the industry through the various keynotes, talks, and workshops. Some speakers included Telle Whitney, former CEO and President of Anita, Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, and Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and former Microsoft employee. In the speakers’ stories, attendees heard of how the speakers’ own perseverance and help from other females and male allies in the field propelled them to where they are today.

    Monmouth University students who were sponsored by the Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSSE) Department and a grant received from the School of Science Student Travel Fund included KerryAnn Demeester, a senior software engineering student; William Jones, a junior computer science and software engineering student; Brianna Licciardello, a junior computer science student; Lauren Niesz, a graduate MIS student; Stephanie Okereke, a sophomore computer science student; and Jessica Zemartis, a senior software engineering student. These students were able to attend the event along with two more MU students who attended as Grace Hopper Scholars and were fully sponsored and awarded the trip to the conference through the head sponsoring organization, Anita; these students were Megan Rapach, a senior software engineering student, and Kalyna Reda, a junior software engineering student. Students were accompanied by Chair of the Computer Science & Software Engineering Department and Specialist Professor, Jamie Kretsch, and Specialist Professor, Jan Rohn.

    The networking opportunities at the conference were unparalleled to any other networking opportunities that the students had been exposed to previously. Tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple were ready to meet prospective interns/employees and as were insurance, retail, and start up companies such as Prudential, Target, Walmart, and Blue Apron.

    “In a way, our attendance at the conference was our way of saying thank you to them [female pioneers in tech] by continuing their work.”

    Lauren Niesz
    Graduate MIS Student

    It is clear that tech is truly in everything. The conference opened the students’ eyes to the infinite possibilities that a degree in anything tech-related can afford them.

    Lauren Niesz, a graduate MIS student, said, “It is so important to be exposed to all different areas that tech is involved in. I had no idea that these big, seemingly non-tech, companies are in need of technical engineers. Being that I really didn’t have as much experience in the field as everyone else because I was an English undergraduate student, it was a pivotal experience for me to find out where I fit into the equation in this world.”

    “It was also absolutely incredible to be exposed to these women who have truly paved the way for all of us. In a way, our attendance at the conference was our way of saying thank you to them by continuing their work,” Niesz continued.

    For Kalyna Reda, a junior software engineering student, the experience was a bit different. Reda was able to attend the conference last year as a sophomore and now, this year, she returned as a Grace Hopper Scholar.

    Reda stated, “As a scholar, I was able to go to a reception and work with mentors on our interviewing and networking skills. This helped me get many on site interviews, in addition to my interviews before the conference!”

    Many of the CSSE students were offered formal interviews and even internships on the spot and all students were afforded the opportunity to hold lengthy conversations regarding the industry and possible internships/jobs with recruiters from various companies. We are so proud of our CSSE students who attended the conference and experienced what power and potential they are afforded in this industry. Women in tech have the ability to make waves and really change the seemingly stagnant tide in the tech world.

    Some women in tech are comfortable where they stand, but for this group of students, they plan on changing the world.

    As Grace Hopper herself once said, “A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” Good luck in the future to our Grace Hopper attendees and all CSSE students in their quest for positive change in the industry!

    To learn more about the conference and even check out the keynotes, visit:

    To learn more about Anita, visit: